How I got an Outreachy Internship and got excited about documentation

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The beginning

I heard about Outreachy while doing the 1millionwomentotech Summer Of Code program. It’s an all-women coding program, and we have a Discord channel where we talk to each other, share experiences, help each other with homework, and so on. We were discussing internships and someone suggested Outreachy. I was immediately interested so I rushed to the site and read everything about it. I decided I would apply.

I liked Outreachy because first, I loved the fact that it is aimed at “anyone who faces under-representation, systemic bias, or discrimination in the technology industry”. I am excited about making technology a more diverse industry which includes people from all walks of life and allows them to make a valuable contribution. Also, it’s a paid internship. As many of you may know, not all of us can afford to take time off work and work in an unpaid internship, so it is nice that they take lower income people who still need to pay the bills into account.

The application process

Before you actually apply for a project, you have a period where you have to choose a project (they recommend one or two, but I personally couldn’t commit to more than one) and start contributing. I chose LibreHealth because it fits my skill set: my background is in languages, and they needed to make their documentation multilingual. So it was the perfect project for me.

This is important: choose a project that suits your current skill set. You will, of course, learn tons anyway, but make sure you don’t have to learn a whole new language or skill from scratch because the contribution period will be tough for you.

I started very early on, which I think helped me a lot. I had already made several contributions before other people had even arrived. I got very excited about documentation, which is something we rarely think about but we all depend on. I had only paid attention to documentation before when I had to use a library with really bad docs, but beyond that, we tend to dismiss it or take it for granted, where in reality it takes work to produce quality documentation. A LOT of work.

We were allowed three revisions per draft, and I generally could submit a final version after 1-2 revisions by the mentors. It is important to ask all the questions you need before starting to work on something, and during the feedback process, so you will be more efficient and will be able to deliver faster, which will result in more contributions.

Then about 10 days into the contribution period, a lot of people stated showing up, and a lot were working super hard and delivering tons of work! Before that, I was very confident that I had a good chance of getting the internship, but then I started to think “Ok, now I might actually not get it!”. On top of that, life happened and I had to slow down a bit, so I was contributing a bit less and other people still kept a great pace.

So slowly I started to assume it wouldn’t happen. I was okay with it, I just planned to enjoy the rest of the contribution process and take it as an experience in itself. When the actual applications opened, I carefully submitted mine a couple of days before the deadline, as I always get super nervous around deadlines and forms, and I just kept submitting my unfinished work and enjoying the process. By then I was sure I wouldn’t get it. I started planning other things to keep myself from getting really disappointed and sad.

The announcement

When I got the email announcement saying I got the internship, my heart skipped a beat. I couldn’t believe it, I was 99% certain I wouldn’t get it! I immediately got in touch with the mentors and started planning what to do. Then I took a few days off and on December 4th I started working as a Documentation Intern for LibreHealth. My mentors are awesome and the work is fun, and I hope we are able to achieve every goal for the project during this term.

If you are interested in applying

  • Start early: you will have a chance to make more and better contributions
  • Make sure your application is ready with ample time before the deadline
  • Ask questions: about everything – the application process, the work you have to do, the feedback. Having a clear picture of what is expected of you will help you produce quality work.
  • Get excited about your work: this way putting in the hours will be easier. Some time it is hard to stop!

Final words

If you’re eligible for Outreachy and find a project that excites you, don’t hesitate to apply. You will learn a lot from the application process itself and you have nothing to lose.

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